Young healthy heroes form the right habits early
ARTICLE: 1 January 2016
Young people often feature in newspaper headlines and statistics for the wrong reasons such as bullying, binge drinking and uncaring attitudes towards others.
The time to build positive habits in children however, is when they are much younger.
This can be done most powerfully in the home where parental example and influence are paramount, and is backed up by support from the school.
For the past 11 years Rotary’s Healthy Heroes Programme has been working its magic in around 700 to 1,000 homes each year, influencing the behaviour of children and parents or caregivers.
The behaviours are holistic, and form habits of good health and family relationships over 9 weeks or one school term. As one principal said, Healthy Heroes integrates the key elements of the school health curriculum into a single programme, the only one to do so, and takes it into the homes. And its impacts are often life changing.
What are these behaviours?
They come in the shape of 5 daily challenges on at least 5 days a week:
- Have continuous physical activity for 30 minutes eg walking, cycling, swimming. There is no substitute for regular effort.
- Eat 3 vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit. There is no substitute for healthy food that supplies vital nutrients.
- Have an agreed bedtime and sleep for 8-10 hours. Shorter sleep time can only jeopardise the value of every school day, a dangerous cost.
- Stretch the mind eg reading, board games, learning music, art, another language. This is a big area for home support and building family relationships.
- Help others at home (eg meal preparation, gardening), at school (eg inviting others to join a play group, removing litter, helping a disabled person), and in the community (eg looking after a neighbour’s pets, helping an elderly person). This is key. Kids learn to be more caring about others, quite the opposite of the aggressive anti-social behaviours we often hear about.
Overall, Healthy Heroes promotes less TV watching, less computer time, and more family times exercising, helping, playing – simply more family fun. Who can fault this? The healthier outcomes speak for themselves:
Kids grow in self-responsibility as they take charge of their challenge responses, and grow in self -esteem as they feel more healthy and their school performance improves.
Parents often tell us their family’s health habits and relationships improve, sometimes dramatically. Most have cut back greatly on junk food.
Schools tell us it is easy to administer, kids are brighter after good sleeps, and it gets the health curriculum into the homes.
Rotary makes it all happen by providing the programme and funding its launch through a school.
No wonder this programme has been endorsed since 2009 by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand.
Wouldn’t it be marvellous to turn around those newspaper headlines to reflect the changed behaviours of the growing numbers of young Healthy Heroes in your community?
It is easy to get started. Check out the website www.healthyheroes.org.nz
Email: Healthy Heroes District Chair Wendy Creurer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laury Sinclair Healthy Heroes Charitable Trust
TOP PHOTO: Children at Whitby Adventure Junior School proudly wear their Healthy Heroes t-shirts